• Altar

    The holiest part of a church. In the medieval period the altar was a table or rectangular slab made of stone or marble, often set upon a raised step. After the Reformation wooden communion tables replaced the stone altars.

  • Apse

    The domed or vaulted east end of the church. In Britain the apse is generally squared off, while on the continent, rounded apses were common.

  • Baptistery

    Where the font was stored and baptisms were performed, generally near the west door. Sometimes a screen or grille separates the baptistery from the nave.

  • Bell tower

    A tower where the church bells were installed. This could be separate from the church, or, more usually, attached. Sometimes called a campanile.

  • Chapel

    A small building or room set aside for worship. Large churches or cathedrals might have many chapels dedicated to different saints. A chantry chapel is a special chapel where prayers for the dead are said.

  • Charter House

    A special room or house where the governing body of a monastery or cathedral met. In Britain the chapter house is usually polygonal in shape with a slender central column supporting the roof.

  • Clerestory

    The upper story of a church where it rises above the aisle roof. Window openings allow extra light into the interior of the church.

  • Crypt

    A vaulted chamber made to house graves and relics, generally located beneath the chancel. Many crypts were very large, to allow numbers of pilgrims access.

  • Font

    A container, generally of stone, which contained holy water for baptism. Usually located near the west door, sometimes the fonts had elaborately carved wooden canopies.

  • Galilee

    A porch at the western end of the church used as a chapel for women or penitents. Sometimes the word refers to the entire western end of the nave.

  • Lectern

    A reading desk, often in the shape of an eagle, made to hold the Bible during services. Usually made of brass.

  • Misericord

    From the Latin word for “mercy” comes this term which refers to pivoting wooden brackets in choir stalls which lifted up to provide relief for clergy who had to stand during long church services. Misericords are often ornately carved and decorative.

  • Pew

    Wooden seats or benches in the church for the congregation. Pews only appeared at the end of the medieval period. Often pews had carved bench-ends and were carved with animal or foliage designs.

  • Pulpit

    A raised stand from which the preacher addresses the congregation. Usually reached by steps or stairs, often covered by a carved canopy.

  • Rood

    A cross erected at the entry to the chancel. Roods often had figures of the Virgin Mary on one side and St. John on the other.

  • Stalls

    Divisions within the choir, where clergy sat (or stood) during service. The stalls are often richly carved and fitted with misericords to help the clergy stand comfortably during long services.

  • Triforium

    A galleried arcade at the second floor level, even with the aisle roof. Also called a “blind-storey” – the triforium looks like a row of window frames without window openings.

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